National holidays are always popular and just about every country has one. Ours is coming up and already in the stores you can see rows of hoodies and t-shirts with the Maple Leaf flag. Have you bought yours yet? I think quite a few of us are quite sloppy about celebrating. Yay – its a day off work for many. But for those of us who came to Canada as immigrants it means a lot more. Although I was born in Britain I emigrated to South Africa as a teen where I lived and had my children before emigrating (once again) to Canada.
It was such a strange experience to live in a suburb where people’s front gardens were open to the street. In Johannesburg (and later in Swaziland when I lived there) most houses had a large wall around with electric gates. It was necessary, unfortunately. I think of that often when I walk out alone in the evenings around our suburb in Bonavista. I would NEVER have done that in Johannesburg or in Swaziland. Just recently Calgary was voted number 3 on the Economist’s Best Places in the World to live. Although our health care has been through hell and back since the pandemic I cannot forget that the first-class care we receive is free! In South Africa you needed pretty expensive health care insurance – and pity the poor people who could not afford that. Having volunteered at the hospital in Mbabane, Swaziland, I can tell you – it is not a pretty place.
Our July 1st celebrations will be closely followed by the US celebrations on 4th July. I can remember attending celebrations for July 4th when I lived in Northern Ireland. The American base was next door to the Royal Navy base so we got invited. Coke and hot dogs were somewhat unknown to us in those days so we had a ball!
And how can we forget UK’s national day – 16th June – Official Birthday of H.M. Queen Elizabeth II. What a trooper she has been! And Australia celebrates its National day to mark the day Captain Philip sailed into Sydney harbour with a boat load of convicts! The Ozzie flag is waved with vigour – an interesting fact I learned – • The two animals featured on the Australian coat of arms are the Emu and the Kangaroo – the reason for this being that neither animal can walk backwards, but instead can always go forwards, symbolising Australia’s desire to do the same. – Well there we go!
In Swaziland (which is now called Eswatini – the names of countries in Africa are always changing) the national day is called Somhlolo Day (see if you can pronounce that) but it is also known as Sobhuza Day named after King Sobhuza II who was one of the longest serving monarchs in the world and well loved for his peaceful ways.
And how could I write any article about National Days without reference to St Patrick’s Day in Ireland – and pretty much all over the world. The Irish are known for their love of fun (and Guinness) as well I know. And I got some practice pulling a pint on a recent trip to the old country.
I bet you didn’t know that Guinness is low calorie and also low alcohol. I know it doesn’t look like it but it is also known as “mother’s milk” in Ireland. What might surprise you is that Guinness was not developed in Ireland – Arthur Guinness began by brewing ale at St. James’s Gate. In the 1770s, he began brewing ‘porter’, a new type of English beer, invented in London in 1722 by a brewer named Ralph Harwood. Porter was different from ale because it was brewed using roasted barley, giving the beer a dark ruby colour and rich aroma.
So if you have Irish heritage (and who doesn’t?) you can lift a glass of Guinness this weekend to Canada and celebrate being in the third best city in the world!